April 04, 2007
Council members back Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation

The recent news about the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation has now brought the first wave of backlash, from some members of City Council.

"We are going to do the right thing," Councilwoman Ada Edwards assured the six people who spoke to the council and Mayor Bill White on behalf of the center.

Council members Addie Wiseman, Adrian Garcia and Sue Lovell also raised concerns about the center's plight, saying the city needs to be sensitive to the vulnerable population served by the nonprofit group.


White said he has met with representatives of the center and tried to make an offer that would let them stay on the property. The mayor, in his Oct. 24 letter, said the city would sell or lease the property to the center for a fair market price, but he said the center was not responsive.

"It takes two parties who are willing to go about a mutual problem-solving exercise," White said.

But Jane Cahill, who has a brother with Down syndrome, defended the center's directors, saying they had taken "a very patient and measured approach" to this matter. Center officials say that although no figure was ever discussed, a lease rate based on the market would be beyond their range.

I think it's high time that some figure is discussed. There's a huge gulf between $1 a year and full market value. Surely some number that's acceptable to everyone and that takes into account the value the Center gives to the city by the services it provides can be reached. What I'm hearing here is that the two sides have not yet begun to negotiate. I say that needs to happen, and soon.

Wiseman said she was appalled when she learned that the city had told the center that it should prepare to move.

The property has been in the possession of the center for more than 40 years under a 1963 lease that the city attorney now says is invalid. That, she said, might raise an all-new question.

"I think we have an issue of squatter's rights in this matter," she said. "I would hope the center and its supporters are as aggressive as possible."

Cory noted the irony of Democrats playing the part of Snidely Whiplash while Republicans rush to the defense of the needy. He notes that when we talk about Weingarten Realty wanting to charge a "market rate" for the leases that occupy the River Oaks Shopping Center, the responses are quite different. While I doubt that the Landmark Theater chain is in possession of a 99-year lease signed by a long-since-retired Weingarten CEO, his point is taken.

Having said that, here's what bugs me about the response from folks like Council Member Wiseman. The Center has two leases, a 99-year lease on its original 5 acres, signed in 1962, and a 30-year lease on the rest of its space, signed in 1972. The latter was not renewed, and they have been on a year-to-year lease since then. Imagine instead if the original story had been about Mayor White's offer to renew the Center at the same $1 per year for 30 more years. I for one can picture Council Member Wiseman getting an appraisal on the site, calculating how much in property taxes it could be generating, then loudly complaining about how many police officers could be hired if the Mayor had been true to his fiduciary responsibilities.

Is that unfair of me? Maybe. Is it so farfetched? I don't think so. I have come to think the folks now defending the Center, including Wiseman, are on the right side of the matter, but I believe that a fair solution can and will be reached. I hope Mayor White will try to come to terms with the Center before taking any further action. We'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 04, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

Any disagreement in final cost can be resolved by commandeering and converting the personal residences of those who initiated this argument.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 4, 2007 12:49 PM

And who exactly would that be? Mayor White? Stan Creech? David Mincberg?

Why is it that Democrats see everything through the lens of theft of private property? Is that not what appropriating other people's property is? Private ownership of property is the foundation of what this nation was founded upon. Who are you to decide that someone doesn't need their property so it is OK to take it? How would you feel if I decided you didn't NEED your car or your house and decided I should take it? You'd be outraged wouldn't you?

Posted by: Rorschach on April 4, 2007 2:12 PM

Oh sorry. I guess I've been milling around too many republicans.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 4, 2007 3:10 PM